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Andy Burnham, the former health secretary, has been elected mayor of Greater Manchester with 63 per cent of the vote, beating Conservative Sean Anstee, who was second with around 20 per cent.

Greater Manchester, with 2.8m people and 10 boroughs, has the second-biggest electorate of any mayoral region. It also has the largest devolution deal, with £1bn in funding over 30 years and joint control over £6bn annual NHS and social care spending.

Turnout was 29 per cent.

Mr Burnham, the Labour candidate, has said that Westminster failed the north, and he has taken a tougher stance than the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on immigration and Brexit as he tries to carve out a northern identity for the party.

He has vacated his seat in Leigh. He thanked the people of the conurbation and said it was a big job. “I will give it my all, and I will not let you down,” he told cheering supporters.

Jeremy Corbyn was reportedly on his way to Manchester to congratulate Mr Burnham, who hardly mentioned the Labour leader in his campaign.

Meanwhile, in Hartlepool – one of the key forthcoming general election tests of whether UKIP can retain its following – the party narrowly lost in a council bye-election to Labour.

In the Headland and Harbour ward, a local UKIP power base, Labour successfully held onto a Hartlepool borough council seat, where the previous Labour councillor had resigned. Labour won by just 23 votes, polling 555 votes against UKIP’s 532. The Tory candidate was third with 210 and an independent fourth with 69.

The result is significant because Hartlepool is one of UKIP’s best general election prospects. In the 2015 general election it boosted its share of votes cast by 21 per cent and came second to Labour’s Iain Wright, cutting his majority to 3,024.

The big question now is whether disaffected ex-Labour voters who backed UKIP in 2015 will stick with UKIP, back the Tories to boost the party’s Brexit negotiating muscle or go back to Labour.

Labour controls Hartlepool borough council, with UKIP as the main opposition.

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